The Turtle Beach Impact 700 ($195) is a very elegant and functional gaming keyboard, characterized by simplicity and high-quality parts. The steel-reinforced chassis tells you that this is a premium peripheral. But while the Impact 700 looks beautiful and plays games well, it doesn't quite offer enough for the high price tag.
The Impact 700 is a very attractive keyboard, with a solid metal frame and a reasonable size. The device measures 17.3 x 5.8 inches, which is positively compact compared to behemoths like the SteelSeries Apex M800 (20.1 x 6.0 inches) or the Logitech Orion Spark (19.9 x 8.3 inches).
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Beyond that, the keyboard is plain black with a full roster of 104 keys, and very little wasted space. Depending on your preferences, you'll either find the design too plain or nicely streamlined. I thought it was the latter, but if you like ornate, showy keyboards (and believe me, they're out there), you'll have to look elsewhere.
The Impact 700 employs authentic Cherry MX keys, which is great. Cherry makes the best mechanical switches in the industry, bar none, and using Cherry switches almost always results in a better gaming keyboard.
On the flip side, the Impact 700 only comes in a Cherry MX Brown flavor. At the risk of stoking a flame war, Browns have always felt like the most indecisive of the mainstream Cherry MX keys to me. They're neither as clackety and resistant as the Blues, nor as quiet and responsive as the Reds. They require a fair amount of pressure to activate, but don't give much in the way of pleasant tactile feedback.
Still, durable mechanical switches from a top-of-the-line manufacturer are nothing to sneeze at. As I have with other Cherry MX keyboards, I had a great time typing on the Impact 700. I scored 86 words per minute with a 1-percent error rate on a standard Dell office keyboard, versus 92 words per minute with a 2-percent error rate on the Impact 700. I cannot account for the increased error rate, save for the fact that I am very familiar with the Dell and had only used the Impact 700 for a few days.
Like its Grip 300 mouse, Turtle Beach's Impact 700 employs a driverless installation that forgoes any complicated extra software. I'll take no software over half-baked software any day, and I respect the company's commitment to keeping its products simple and user-friendly.
This isn't to say that the Impact 700 offers nothing unique. The device sports red backlighting, complete with five levels of illumination (two of which are pulsing patterns). It also comes with two USB ports and two audio jacks — one for headphones, one for a microphone. This is a relatively uncommon feature in gaming keyboards, but an extremely useful one, especially when cords are short.
The keyboard also comes with a number of extra keys if you want to swap out your W, A, S, D and arrow keys for something with a little more flair. It doesn't change the experience much, but the extra keys are nice to have.
My only big complaint here is that for a keyboard that costs $195, offering only one color of backlighting seems retro in all the wrong ways. RGB keyboards are currently at the forefront of the gaming peripheral market. Even the Corsair Gaming K70, which also uses real Cherry MX keys (and offers Reds and Blues, to boot), is an RGB keyboard, and it costs $170.
The bulk of the asking price is to cover the steel frame, which is admittedly cool, and can help the keyboard stand up to a pounding (if you're that kind of player). But the fact is that other gaming keyboards offer way more features than the Impact 700, and cost less.
As a mechanical keyboard with top-notch keys, the Impact 700 has excellent in-game performance. I tried it out with Titanfall, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Assassin's Creed Unity and Star Wars: The Old Republic, and it was an impressive companion across the board.
The keyboard worked particularly well in Titanfall and Heart of the Swarm, as first-person shooter and real-time strategy games tend to pair best with an unadorned keyboard. The device was responsive and comfortable, and worked well whether I was piloting giant mechs in first person or ordering around small armies of giant mechs on alien worlds.
My only caveat about the keyboard's performance is that since there's no software, there's no way to make macros. If you play massively multiplayer online games at a very high level, you'll either have to program macros into a gaming mouse or invest in another keyboard. For more casual MMO play, the Impact 700 gets the job done.
The Impact 700 is a sleek, high-quality keyboard. I like the sturdy steel frame and smooth and responsive performance. However, similar models from other manufacturers offer better value. The Gaming K70 and the Razer BlackWidow Chroma, both $170, are more robust and colorful. But if you're a fan of the Turtle Beach brand and you're willing to pay more for it, this keyboard will satisfy.